It was Napoleon Hill who once says that when your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve. The above assertion aptly described the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Prof. Abdullahi Bala (FSSSN) passion in piloting the affairs of the University to greater heights since he assumed office on December 3rd, 2017.
A First class graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Bala is also an alumnus of the University of Reading and the University of London, UK where he obtained his Master’s and PhD degrees respectively with distinctions. He is also the President of the Association of West Africa Universities (AWAU).
Prof. Bala boasts a broad-based experience spanning the internal workings, statutes, Acts and extant laws that provided the legal framework for the operation of universities in Nigeria. He has worked within the confines of the laws in the discharge of his responsibilities as the Vice-Chancellor of FUT, Minna in the last two years.
His CV is so impressive that we can’t but agree that he is the best man for the job based on his cognate experience as a former Head of department, Director of Centre for Preliminary and Extra-Mural Studies (CPES), Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration and later Academic before he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the University through a seamless and transparent exercise adjudged by many and other competitors as the best ever in the annals of the University.
Indeed, experience truly has a way of shaping one’s perception of life. Obviously, the vast experience gained by Prof. Bala in his previously assigned responsibilities in the University contributed immensely in making his job as Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna easier.
Prof. Bala’s appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the institution was met with a lot of euphoria and high expectations which can best be described as a sign of confidence people have in his ability to deliver on his promises. Their belief was based on his proven track records as a consummate scholar and administrator with over 30 years experience within the University system.
On assumption of office in 2017, Prof. Bala noted that “my administration’s priority will be to continue to work hard in navigating the University along the trajectory of progressiveness and development already charted by my predecessors. In doing so, we shall be mindful of and be guided by three cardinal Gs namely; guided by statutes of the University and laws of the land, good governance and global best practices”
Two years down the lane since he took over as the 7th substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Bala has not deviated from these guiding principles which are geared at advancing the fortunes of the institution for good.
The institution has recorded so many milestones in all facets while also consolidating on the solid foundation laid by his predecessors. Under the able leadership of Prof. Abdullahi Bala, the University has been in the forefront of conducting cutting-edge research aimed at solving societal problems and has also attracted a plethora of research grants from local and international agencies.
Prof. Bala’s managerial template is exceptional and devoid of bureaucratic bottle neck which have resulted in uninterrupted effective, efficient and timely service delivery. The moribund FUTMin Ventures Limited and the University Commercial Farm have been restructured, resuscitated and re-directed to the path of profitability thereby generating additional stream of revenue to the institution to complement government subvention.
The University’s Internally Generated Revenue has also improved due to the creativity that the Vice-Chancellor has brought to bear in the running of the University in the last two years.
An erudite scholar, Prof. Bala represents hope and optimism in a better Nigeria based on his diligent and prudent approach in managing the limited resources of the University since assumption of office.
To say that Prof. Bala’s two years in office has been eventful is stating the obvious based on the fact that the various milestones recorded by the University within the years being reviewed is sorely perceptible for everybody to see.
It is germane to note that the special TETFund High Impact Fund of N3billion that has eluded the institution for over 15 years was finally granted to the University this year. The University was also able to access the sum of N2.5 billion naira Needs Assessment Fund which was previously held up in the Federal Ministry of Finance. The Suleja Study Centre donated by the Suleja Emirates Education Trust Fund is now being put to judicious use with some pre-degree students posted to the Centre. The abandoned Cyber Security Department building at the Main Campus is almost completed and will soon be commissioned by the Vice-Chancellor.
The University’s Centre for Open Distance and e-Learning (CODeL) has finally gotten approval from the National Universities Commission (NUC) to run degree programmes after over 10 years of its establishment. It would not be out of place to refer to Prof. Bala as a goal-getter. These funds will definitely change the setting and face of the University for good.
Purpose-driven, directional, humane, a team player and highly cerebral, Prof. Bala espoused a management style that is in consonance with global best practices.
It is therefore not surprising that Prof. Bala’s impressive accomplishments as Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna in the last two years has brought the University to the limelight for good reasons. Despite the litany of challenges faced by most universities in Nigeria such as paucity of funds, infrastructural decay, over population just to mention but a few, Prof. Bala’s innovative style of administration has turned things around in FUT, Minna with notable infrastructural upgrade which has changed the narrative of the institution’s architectural landscape. The following are some of the milestones recorded by the Vice-Chancellor in the last two years aimed at taking the institution to the next level.
The Vice-Chancellor has put in place mechanism to maintain the University’s position on the webo-metric and 4ICU rankings since assumption of office in 2017.
Majority of our faculty members have all their research papers uploaded on the University website. This singular act has further enhanced our visibility presence online as well as attract traffic to the University’s website. The University has moved from 5th position in 2017 to 3rd position in 2019 in the webo-metric ranking of institutions in Nigeria. FUT, Minna presently occupies 4th position in the 4ICU ranking index. This accomplishment is not a fluke but a reward for hard work with considerable backing from the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Abdullahi Bala.
The University is now the fifth best institution in Nigeria and the best specialized university in Nigeria. FUT, Minna was also ranked among the top 10 graduates employability institutions in Nigeria based on a study conducted in 2019 by a renowned research firm.
Accreditation of Programmes
It is pertinent to note that all the University’s programmes have the National Universities Commission’s full accreditation status. Those that had interim accreditation status before the Vice-Chancellor came on board have all joined the league of departments in the institution with full accreditation status. The same thing can also be said of all programmes that required professional accreditation. This milestone would not have been achieved without the support of the Vice-Chancellor.
Research is one of the key mandates of any university in the globe. Under the able leadership of Prof. Bala, the university research drive has received commensurate support and research has been scaled up. Within the years being reviewed, the University won the World Bank research grant to the tune of 6million dollars for the establishment of Africa Centre of Excellence for Mycotoxin and Food Safety- the eleventh of such centres in the country. The University researchers also won so many research grants from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development just to mention but a few.
Attracting Projects to the University
The Vice-Chancellor has used his contact in the society to attract critical projects and equipment to the University. This is part of the Vice-Chancellor’s strategy of looking outward to persuade spirited and wealthy individuals in the society as well as its Alumni to assist the institution in some critical areas. It is worthy to note that this drive is paying off as the VC has attracted two projects for the construction of ICT hubs with state-of-the-art-facilities by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Information Technology and Development Agency (NITDA).
Also, Urban Shelter Nigeria Limited has also agreed to construct a 50-room Guest House at the Main Campus. Many more are also in the pipeline waiting for administrative and technical aspects to be sorted out.
TETFund has also supported the University in its street light project to light-up the institution to the tune of over N200 million. The contract has been awarded and work has started in earnest. The Vice-Chancellor also got funds from the Federal Ministry of Education for the procurement of equipment for departments.
Maintaining Academic Excellence
Prof. Bala has sustained the institution’s impeccable culture of academic excellence bequeathed to him by his predecessors.
The Vice-Chancellor further demonstrated this with the composition of Committee on Monitoring and Quality Teaching under the Chairmanship of a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Akim O. Osunde. Lecture time tables and course allocations for semester are done before the end of the preceeding semester and faculty members of the University have been urged to upload all their lecture notes on the University’s website. In line with global best practices, lecturers now prepare their course ware, detailing the objectives, expected outcomes, modes of delivery as well as modes of assessment to enable students prepare ahead for the course before the start of a semester.
Staff of the university have continued to enjoy promotions as and when due without delays in line with the institution extant laws on staff promotion. In the area of staff training, a large number of staff of the University have participated in different local and international conferences and workshops with a view to equipping them with the prerequisite skills needed to function effectively in the ever dynamic university system.
Through TETFund support, the University has also sponsored many academic staff abroad for doctoral programmes. Prof. Bala has also ensured timely and transparent disbursement of the funds to the university’s core area of needs.
The University has witnessed tremendous strides in the area of physical infrastructural upgrade. Construction work is ongoing at different corners in the university. The construction of the School of Physical Sciences and the School of Life Sciences complexes have started and the Vice-Chancellor is committed to relocating the Schools to the Main Campus within the first quarter of the year 2020. The construction of Lecture theatre for the School of Information and Communication Technology (SICT) has begun. When completed, it will provide lecture space for all the departments in the School.
Other ongoing construction work in the University include;
1. Completion of the second phase of the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology Complex
2. Construction of Cyber Security Department building (second phase)
3. Construction of 20 Units of female Lavatory
4. Construction of 20 Units of male Lavatory
5. Construction of 250 seater capacity Lecture Theatre for School of Information and Communication Technology (Ongoing).
6. Construction of Mini ICT Square/Installation of ICT Equipment and Software for R & D
7. Construction of two ICT Hubs On-going by NCC & NITDA.
In spite of its 36 years existence as a university, the institution can only accommodate about 4, 000 out of the university’s over 19, 000 students population on Campus. On assumption of office in 2017, the Vice-Chancellor promised to accommodate at least 74 per cent on Campus.
Prof. Bala has also walked the talk in this aspect with the signing of memorandum of understanding with Urban Shelter Nigeria Limited for the construction of students’ hostel at the Main Campus under the Build-Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangements. Urban Shelter Nigeria Limited is expected to provide over 3, 000 bed spaces. The University Alumni has also laid foundation for the construction of students’ hostel as a way of giving back to their Alma Mater. Other interested firms have also submitted proposals for the construction of hostels.
If all these can be achieved within two years, then the remaining three years of the Vice-Chancellor’s tenure, if God permits, will definitely be rosy for the university in all facets. Indeed, FUT, Minna is truly on the path of greatness under the able leadership of Prof. Abdullahi Bala.